I spend a lot of time talking about abusive relationships. I try to educate people on the dynamics of abuse, how to spot abusers, how to get out of an abusive relationship... So I thought maybe it's time to put a little focus on healthy relationships.
It was a recent trip to Taco Tico that made me really think about this. In 2018, my folks both got cancer. (Those crazy kids loved doing everything together!) It was a long haul for everyone. In July of 2019, just shortly after their 48th anniversary, Ma passed away. Dad is gradually getting better, but there's still a lot of appointments.
After a doctor appointment, we always like to go out to eat. And Dad will pick Taco Tico every time. He never really ate there before because Ma didn't care for that kind of food. But underlying this really minor thing is actually the whole crux of an awesome relationship.
Dad never suggested eating at Taco Tico because he knew she didn't like it, and he was always focused on making her happy. But here's the thing - if at any point in time Dad would have said, "Man, I've got a monster craving for Taco Tico!" my mom wouldn't have batted an eye. She would have gone like a good sport and picked her way through something - because she was always focused on making him happy.
When I was growing up, Dad was a truck driver. He only went to the states around Iowa, so he was usually home every evening and on weekends. But he always had to get up to leave for work anywhere between midnight and four in the morning. And every night that he got up to leave, Ma got up with him. She made sure he had his lunch and she'd kiss him goodbye at the door. Even though she had to get up for work herself at six, she was there to see him off to work every day. He never asked her to; she did it all on her own. And every weekend Dad would get up early while Ma got caught up on her sleep. He'd take her car, fill the gas tank, and run it through the car wash. She never asked him to; he just wanted to make her happy and take care of her.
Now, it's not selfish for us to focus on ourselves once in a while. You're not a bad person if you occasionally want to eat at a restaurant your partner doesn't like! Relationships are about give and take. Sometimes we give more than we receive, and sometimes we're the needy one and can't give back as much. It's when that general balance isn't present that there may be a problem. If you're always giving and you don't feel like it's ever reciprocated, it's probably time to re-examine that relationship. Just because a relationship isn't abusive doesn't mean that it's healthy.
Even when both of them were going through chemo and losing their hair together, my folks were still worried about taking care of each other. Both of them were concerned if they were the one who went first, who would take care of the other one? (Apparently my sister and I were relegated to the role of chopped liver!) At the very end, Ma was briefly in the nursing home prior to getting moved to Hospice. We didn't expect her to regain consciousness, but we apparently forgot about how stubborn she was! My poor niece went to the bathroom and by the time she got back, Ma was halfway down the hallway. She thought she was at home and needed to make sure the door was unlocked so the Meals on Wheels folks could get Dad's lunch to him! Her last words were when she very clearly said to Dad, "Are you okay, dear?"
I was not prepared to lose her, but I was so blessed to grow up in a house where there was so much love and so much laughter. I remember many times growing up that Ma would make the comment, "You're always better off being alone that being with someone who treats you badly."
Nothing could be more true than that. And that's what I want for each of you. I want you to have a long life filled with love and laughter and fun.